On Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released the first image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope launched into space to date. The photo unveiled by President Joe Biden shows a galaxy cluster known as Webb’s First Deep Field as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. By far the most detailed image of the early universe to date, the image reveals never-before-seen structures, star clusters, and other features.
Webb’s images will allow researchers to learn more about the earliest galaxies’ ages, masses, histories, and compositions. Over the coming years, decades even, this scientific achievement will help further our understanding of the universe.
Naturally, conspiracy theorists are convinced that it’s fake.
There is a kaleidoscope of theories about how NASA created the beautiful, intricate image of distant galaxies that Biden unveiled on Monday—including one that posits it’s literally just a photo of the inside of a kaleidoscope.
The conspiracy haven Telegram is rife with people opining that the photo released on Monday is fake, photoshopped, or produced by other low-fi means.
“A trick in photography is to put a shear stocking over the lens pulled tight—you get light sparkles. Welcome to 80’s glamour shots NASA,” wrote one.
Another wondered which “graphic designer at NASA” deserves credit.
A post in the notorious r/conspiracy subreddit wondered why the James Webb Space Telescope, which is nearly 1 million miles away, isn’t turning its lens on planets in our solar system.
Some educated the original poster about the telescope’s design and capabilities, which make it ideal for capturing distant galaxies. “Not every telescope is tailored toward exoplanet discovery,” wrote one, although given Webb’s abilities, it may also discover distant, hospitable worlds.
Another redditor, who described themself as an amateur astrophotographer, offered a more detailed explanation. “Your question is the same as asking why we can’t see the flag on the moon with a powerful telescope, like Hubble. Basically, it comes down to optics. You’d need a telescope with an aperture of the size of Earth to see anything near the flag on the moon from Earth.”
It’s also true that NASA has high-resolution photos of the planets.
These arguments failed to convince more stalwart conspiracy theorists who often refuse to believe anything they didn’t see in person.
“We can’t see the flag on the moon because we NEVER PUT ONE THERE!!” PhillipMcCracken420 replied.
For some, the unprecedented glimpse at thousands of galaxies, a small slice that represents roughly a grain of sand held up to the sky, is simply irreparably tainted by the fact that the current president unveiled it.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck Joe Biden,” commented one unimpressed Telegram user. “Those are probably pictures of his butthole.”
NASA released the rest of the first batch of photos from the James Webb Space Telescope today.